Sunday, 31 May 2009

Sustainable food of the Lleyn Peninsula

Locally produced food has been highlighted for its potential to boost the Welsh rural economy, as well as reducing the environmental damage of lengthening ‘food miles’ transporting food from producer to consumer. The Lleyn Peninsula, a narrow strip of land jutting into the sea, sometimes referred to as the arm of North Wales, has a surprising range of local produce with livestock like buffalo along with the ubiquitous sheep and cattle.

The Lleyn Peninsula is best known for its seafood. I visited Llyn Land and Seafood Festival held in Pwllheli marina. Stalls included free range geese and chicken meat from Ty’n y Celyn of the Vale of Clwyd and North Wales Buffalo, much of the herd originating from Romania has adapted well to the farm on the Halkyn Mountain overlooking the Dee Estuary. Buffalo can bring less productive land into food production as they are good converters of poor quality forage. There were Menai Oysters, from a restored mussel bed that had not been worked for two decades, and has been developed into an oyster and mussel farm supplying the wholesale and restaurant market. In addition to locally sourced food there were unusual twists to imported food and drink like chocolate and champagne, and more sustainable packaging made from biodegradable corn starch. The annual festival is hosted by the Llyn Fishermen’s Association.

I spent a day at Aberdaron, a fishing village at the tip of the Lleyn Peninsula. The Aberdaron crab and lobster fishery is working with the National Trust, which maintains most of the Lleyn coastline, to meet their sustainability criteria and towards Marine Stewardship Council certification. This includes making the transition from using edible wet fish as bait to using waste salmon, which will save resources as well as reducing costs. Crab caught in the morning is dressed and packed locally and in shops by lunchtime. Tried all kinds of produce, all very good, all in the name of research of course.

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